“”You can’t achieve anything without getting in someone’s way.”” – Abba Eban, diplomat

As you climb the ladder of success, you are going to bump into some slow-moving, not-moving, and backward-moving fellow climbers. How you get around them will determine both how high you climb and how good you feel about yourself.

Ambitious entrepreneurs and corporate climbers are equally capable of focusing so intensely on their business goals that other considerations – like people’s feelings – get sacrificed.

I’m guilty of this. In fact, it’s practically my style. I am impatient, critical, condescending, or combative – anything to get the result I seek. I excuse my behavior by blaming my victims. They are too slow . . . too dumb . . . too careless . . . or too lazy.

The Problem With Being A Bastard

There is no question about it. In the short run, I accomplish more by threats, rebukes, and criticism than I do by making nice.

Over time, however, my behavior comes back to haunt me. The feelings I hurt vibrate long after my pleasure in venting has dissipated. What I end up with is a lot of invisible stuff working against me.

I don’t resort to strong-arming people out of sadism. I do it because I feel I have no other choice. I want to get the work done, and I’ve asked nicely three times already. If I had better leadership skills, I would never have to say an abrupt word. I would always be graceful. Lacking them, I resort to blunter instruments.

A Model Of Grace And Gentleness

The truth is, however, that it is never NECESSARY to mistreat people. My proof? BB,who has never – as far as I know – said a mean word to anyone. Confronted by monumentally stupid ideas or bad performances, he is careful, even gentle, in his comments. He never yells. He never scolds. He simply makes suggestions or asks questions.

As a result, he has few enemies, even among his competitors.

When BB is presented with a one-sided proposition, he will say something like, “Gee, I don’t think I can afford that,” rather than, “How can you even suggest that, you greedy, self-centered sonofabitch?”

When he sees bad writing, he might ask, “Do you think this headline is as specific as it could be?” rather than say, “You are hopeless. You can’t even write a simple headline. Never cast your shadow in my office again!”

The World Would Be A Nicer Place But . . .

My early mentors did not share BB’s gift for grace. They tended to be direct . . . even abrupt. Two images come swiftly to mind: ABC standing in front of a competitor in a quiet restaurant and screaming “This man is a crook!” and DEF tossing his secretary and her typewriter out of his office to the horror of the typing pool.

I suppose if you put 10 success-oriented people up against the wall, eight or nine of them will be inveterate ball busters. It goes with the DNA.

If you are one of the nice few, your challenge will be to overcome your tendency to put up with slow movers (the subject of another day’s discussion). But if you (like me) are among the DRIVEN (a nice word that carries with it the expiation of its own sins), you (we) need to make some changes.

First . . .

* Recognize that another person’s laziness, lack of ambition, clumsiness, and incompetence are not intended to harm you. They existed before you came into the picture. Be compassionate.

* Be compassionate but not accepting . You set the standards. Make them fair. Make them clear. But expect them to be met.

* The moment you recognize that someone will not improve, make the decision to replace him. Do so with kindness.

Then do as BB does:

* Ask, don’t tell.

* Listen before you speak.

* Say something good before you say something bad.

* Be careful in your criticism.

I’ll talk more about this in future messages. For today, it is sufficient to think about where along the scale you stand – and what you intend to do about it. I mean, if you want to.…

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